From Staff Reports
FROSTBURG — A local firm that recently expanded operations has won another five-year state contract.
After competitive bidding, the Maryland Department of Information Technology has awarded Hamilton Relay a contract to provide telecommunications relay and captioned telephone services for the state.
The Nebraska based company added dozens of jobs in 2012 and occupies 1 Science Park. The company specializes in call relays for the deaf and hearing impaired.
“Relay service is essential to the more than half a million individuals in Maryland who rely on Maryland Relay to communicate with friends, family and businesses,” said Brenda Kelly-Frey, director of the Maryland Department of Information Technology. “The state of Maryland appreciates the high-quality relay and outreach services that Hamilton has provided over the past five years.”
The five-year contract between Hamilton Relay and the state begins June 1.
Hamilton Relay first opened a relay service call center in Frostburg after receiving the initial state award in 2007. Hamilton then expanded its work force again in 2012 as the company began processing captioned telephone calls out of the center, adding more than 70 captioning assistant positions. The center provides relay services for Maryland, and for 15 other states across the nation and employs more than 140 people in Allegany County.
The Hamilton Relay center in Frostburg has had a positive economic impact for the state since its inception and continues to provide additional economic benefits. It is estimated that by the end of the new five-year contract, the center will have generated more than $228 million in local sales for Allegany County, officials said.
“The commissioners had little doubt that Hamilton Relay and the state of Maryland would sign another five year contract,” said Michael W. McKay, president of Allegany County commissioners. “The company’s attention to detail and the work ethic of its employees speaks for itself. We are pleased to be a part of Hamilton’s expansion in Allegany County.”
Captioned Telephone Relay Service is designed for people who have difficulty hearing but are not profoundly deaf. The company also offers other captioning services.
The technology, developed by Ultratec, of Madison, Wis., allows people to view word-for-word captions of what’s being said to them on a phone display screen — similar to captions on television.
A captioning assistant revoices what is said by the standard phone user through state of the art voice recognition software and the words are then converted into text that shows up on the special phone used by the impaired person, company officials have said.
During the 2012 expansion agreement reached with the county, Hamilton agreed to pay $170,000 per year in rent for years one through three, with incremental increases of $10,000 for option years four and five.
Hamilton has its headquarters in Aurora, Neb., and started out as a farm cooperative phone company. While its focus here is on relay calls, it also offers traditional phone and Internet services at other locations. It operates in 17 states, Saipan and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Maryland Relay is a free public service that allows people with hearing or speech loss to stay independent on the telephone. More information about Maryland Relay is available at www.mdrelay.org.